When Should Christians Engage in Civil Disobedience?

Submit First


The Civil Rights Movement is a prime example of civil disobedience for justified reasons that had a positive outcome. Some Christians believe we should respond to new laws with civil disobedience, but God also commands us to submit to governing authorities. Is there a point where civil disobedience becomes permissible? Tim Keller, John Yates, and Al Mohler sit down to talk about civil disobedience. They define civil disobedience, share personal stories, and point to what the Bible says about submitting to the government.  


Tim Keller  is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. John Yates is the  Rector of The Falls Church in Falls Church, Virginia. Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. 




The speakers defined civil disobedience as:

  1. The refusal to obey certain laws
  2. Resisting an illegitimate regime

Tim said we should engage in civil disobedience when we’re commanded to do something God forbids, or forbidden from doing something God commands. Is this what comes to mind when you think of when civil disobedience? Why or why not?
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Tim advised Christians to be willing to suffer and submit. Since God commands us to submit to the governing authorities, we should err on the side of submission. What stands out to you about Tim’s advice? Why?
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Al said we tend to draw lines for ourselves saying, “I will resist when…” Do you draw any lines for yourself when it comes to civil disobedience? If so, what are those lines and what motivates those boundaries for you?
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Tim and John both shared circumstances where they decided to submit to the State out of obedience to God. Have you ever experienced a decision between civil disobedience or submission to the State? If so, describe your experience. How did you handle the situation? What did the State require of you? Did you submit or stand against them? How did you seek God’s guidance? What happened in the end?
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John encouraged us to put ourselves in the shoes of those in government. What could this look like in your context? How could you begin to understand the perspective of people in government?
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Did you gain any new insights about civil disobedience from this discussion? If so, what?
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At the end of the video, John reminded us of other Christians who suffer under oppressive governments worldwide. Al also reaffirmed that our task as Christians is to preach the gospel. This week, what could you do to pray for the persecuted church? How could you preach the gospel at work, home, or school this week?
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God commands us to submit to those in authority. Submit to your government and ruling authorities, but be faithful to God first. Take the next few moments to pray for the persecuted church. Pray for the people in your context who do not know Christ—maybe some of them work in the government. Ask God for opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them this week. 


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